In December 2001 after being rudely taken away from his parents and a short stay at a commercial game farm near Albertinia, ‘Dudi’ landed up with the Overberg Crane Group, on a farm amongst the wheat fields just outside Caledon for rehabilitation and release back into the wild. After a few months and much effort he was ready to be colour-ringed, sexed and took off permanently with the other cranes to do whatever cranes do never to be seen again.
In February 2003, ‘Stoffie’ arrived in Caledon after spending a few years in the George area pestering white bakkies in her attempts to attract a mate. She was the result of someone who had decided it would be fun to have a crane as a pet but as soon as the novelty wore off she was ignored. It was very obvious that she was an extremely poor candidate for release because of her severe imprinting on humans and vehicles but hey, here she was, so it was worth a try. Both wing feathers had been clipped so it was going to be a long process anyway.
It’s difficult to see improvement when involved with a situation on a day-to-day basis but somewhere along the line her obsessive behaviour must have started to decrease. Supplementary feeding was gradually phased out and she settled in to life with a flock of rams in the 10ha camp next to the offices. Yes, it took time before she realized the wild cranes that dropped in to see the new visitor was not going to kill her and by end 2004 she was already having several regular crane guests.
One of them one day, to my surprise, being ‘Dudi’. Initially he pitched up in amongst a small group of cranes but then he started visiting on his own and spending more time hanging out with Stoffie. Attempts to chase him off only made him (and her) more persistent so in the end this odd ‘couple’ was left to be.
They were onto a good thing as they set up house in the ram camp close to the farmer’s house. A small dam provided a roost site, leftovers from the molasses barley sheep feed provided a great take-away and oat pastures its fair share of insects.
In September 2005, this odd combination has made a nest and produced an egg. It will be surprising if it is actually fertile as the chances of these 2 ‘maladjusted’ cranes getting the whole copulation thing right are probably very slim – but that has not deterred them and they are taking their role as potential parents very seriously.
Whatever the outcome of this first breeding attempt who would have thought this is what lay in store for these 2 cranes when they first hatched out wherever that may have been.
Love Story: Episode number 2.
Like most other ground nesting birds, one of the most common threats to Blue Crane eggs is that of accidental trampling either by livestock, vehicles or farming implements. Unfortunately this is what happened to Dudi and Stoffie’s egg – the crane pair from previously disadvantaged backgrounds featured in newspapers earlier this month. The rams had come down to drink at the dam where their nest was situated. Something startled them causing a stampede and they ran right over the egg. Signs point towards it having been infertile but it’s difficult to say one way or another.
However good news is that this did not discourage the determined couple and surprisingly within a couple of days they made another nest a few hundred meters away. This time Stoffie has laid not one but two eggs!
As can be expected both parents are devoted to their duties – Dudi is fiercely guarding the nest while Stoffie does much of the incubating in the rain or hot sun. They have now had a second chance at producing a fertile egg so its another month of waiting to see if these two cranes will be lucky enough to get an early Christmas present in the form of a chick.